A film review by Craig J. Koban April 27, 2023



2023, PG-13, 98 mins.

Lily Tomlin as Lou  /  Jane Fonda as Trish  /  Rita Moreno as Maura  /  Sally Field as Betty  /  Tom Brady as Tom Brady  /  Billy Porter as Gugu  /  Alex Moffat as Nat  /  Rob Corddry as Pat  /  Guy Fieri as Guy Fieri  /  Harry Hamlin as Dan  /  Bob Balaban as Mark  /  Glynn Turman as Mickey  /  Jimmy O. Yang as Tony  /  Ron Funches as Chip  /  Rob Gronkowski as Rob Gronkowski  /  Julian Edelman as Julian Edelman

Directed by Kyle Marvin  /  Written by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins


I went into the new sports comedy 80 FOR BRADY with two competing mindsets.   

First, I was like, wow, this film features a relative who's-who of legendary Hollywood actresses - Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, and Sally Field.  The idea that they're all pooling their considerable talents together in a single movie for the first - and considering the stage of their respective careers, arguably the last - time is enticing, to say the least.   

Secondly - and more distractingly - this film seems like one large piece of product placement for not only the NFL and New England Patriots, but also for its former multiple Super Bowl winning quarterback, Tom Brady (who also serves as producer here and appears briefly...more on that in a bit).  80 FOR BRADY is loosely based on a true story of a group of elderly Patriots fans known as the "Over 80 for Brady" that - as massive supporters of the iconic player - found a way to attend the Super Bowl in 2017.  A movie about Brady...his team...his Super Bowl conquests...and a bunch of old women obsessing over him...and one that's produced by Brady...yeah...it sure seems like a massive vanity project.  80 FOR BRADY is like watching a one and a half hour infomercial that hoists its titular player into the heavens of hero worship.   

I'm trying awfully hard not to come off as mean and condescending towards this fact-based event.  I think it's cool that some women in the winter of their lives decided to band together and see their beloved player and team live and in the biggest game possible before they leave this earth.  There's an undeniable feel-good sweetness that permeates their tale.  That, and as mentioned, having female movie star royalty play these women is definitely a selling card.  If there's any tangible reason to recommend 80 FOR BRADY it would be that (a) there are so very few sports-centric pictures out there of the female prerogative, let alone the mature female prerogative and (b) Tomlin, Fonda, Moreno, and Field give the film the spark of interest that it desperately needs.  Beyond that, though, and 80 FOR BRADY is an equal parts absurd, tonally deaf, and embarrassingly unfunny watch that doesn't do justice to the skills of its leading ladies.



We meet these die-hard Patriots fans in 2017 as their team is about to make a Super Bowl run.  Lou (Lily Tomlin) is a former cancer survivor who always had football and her BFFs to get her through, comprised of Trish (Fonda), Maura (Moreno) and Betty (Field).  They have all been worshippers at the altar of Brady since 2001 (which coincided with Lou's recovery from cancer).  Now, the women are gushing at the prospect of the Patriots making it to Super Bowl LI after their AFC Championship victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Lou has an epiphany: They should all travel to Texas and attend the game themselves.  After all, their clocks are ticking and they all realize that they don't have much time left.  There's one large problem: it's going to be beyond expensive for them all.  However, fate steps in with a local contest, and Lou steps in to peddle her story of lifelong friendship with her besties to the judges and - wouldn't ya know it? - they actually win!  With the awesome realization that they have secured a free way to get into the game, the four women begin planning their trip to Houston, which features a whole slew of wacky misadventures to come for them all.     

Gee, I wonder if the tickets will end up missing along the way?     

SPOILER ALERT: They do.   

Most of the would-be hilarity that 80 FOR BRADY wants to unleash on us comes in the form of the ladies attempting to get their way back into the Super Bowl to see their dreams through to successful fruition.  Many of the individual episodes range from mildly amusing to downright cringe-inducing.  There's an extended segment involving Betty going the distance in a hot wing eating contest run by Guy Fieri (the gag here is not that Betty has the strength and fortitude to survive eating the ultra spicy chicken pieces, but rather that she's famished after the long trip).  Then there's another vignette involving all of the ladies getting high on edibles at a party, leading to hallucinations (and their inhibitions being thrown out the window).  And speaking of hallucinations, we get a running joke involving one of the ladies thinking that Brady himself is talking to her from TV screens (this allows for Brady to be - thank God! - not a fixture in the film as an actor, but rather a brief spiritual guide throughout giving the ladies inspirational pep talks (yeah...it's as weird as it sounds).  Oh, Harry Hamlin shows up as an obligatory love interest for one of the available women (oh...and he's also a former NFL'er...how convenient).  The film also tries to get hearty laughs born out of these women's' combined naiveté and ignorance.  Betty, for example, constantly refers to her fanny pack as a "strap on."  Hardy har.  Poor Patton Oswalt and Billy Porter also make mercifully short cameos too.  I can't remember if they were wearing strap ons...er...sorry...fanny packs.  

I guess one of the major problems - among many - with 80 FOR BRADY is that it really has no idea what kind of film it wants to be.  Sometimes, director Kyle Marvin and screenwriters Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern want their film to be a sobering chronicle of female kinship while battling massive odds (Lou's struggles to beat cancer figure into the story early on) while later going into completely farcical directions when these women try to stumble their way from one humiliating ordeal to the next to get their prized tickets back.  For a film that's barely 90 minutes, the tonal jumps here are pretty erratic, not to mention that attempts to flesh out and give arcs to each of these female characters are flimsy at best.  None of them come off as fully realized and dimensional characters because the film has no sizeable amount of time to devote to such things, especially when it's sluggishly trying to get to the next madcap and hopelessly contrived scene of shenanigans to the next.  There's a definitively compelling story involving Lou's cancer survival being linked to a newfound adoration of pro-football, which served as a form of therapy for her.  All throughout 80 FOR BRADY I kept on thinking that this is the story I would like to see on screen versus the one given.   

I started to drift off and think of other things while watching 80 FOR BRADY (never a good sign in any screening), like how these revered actresses have won everything from Oscars to Tonys to Emmys to Grammys.  That's pretty extraordinary.  Their respective resumes and accolades speak for themselves.  They have nothing to prove at this late period of their careers.  Having said that, don't Tomlin, Fonda, Moreno and Field deserve better than this obvious shill piece to promote the NFL/Brady brand?  I certainly think that they all deserve a far better team-up picture than this (their natural camaraderie on screen is palpable, yes, and it's nifty to see them all together, but they're essentially in easy-going coast mode here).  Plus, I was mind blown to find out that 80 FOR BRADY comes from the same writing team of the smart and savvy high school comedy BOOKSMART (wow...like...wow...talk about two films at polar opposite ends of the creative DNA spectrum).  Here's another thing: Who's this film for beyond its clear-cut target demographic?  Devotees of the actresses and Patriots might (emphasis on might) find it passably watchable, but for all others (especially non-Patriots fanboys), then this film will prove to be an insufferable watch.  

I usually try to be at the forefront of championing films starring women, written by women, and featuring genre efforts told from their mindsets (that are usually male-dominated).  80 FOR BRADY gets that right, at least, but the final product is such a messy, ridiculous, and cliché-riddled piece of unfunny screwball hijinks that it all but squanders the good fortune of having some of the greatest movie actresses ever in it.  80 FOR BRADY gets sacked right from its opening stages and never gets its head back into the game.

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